Monday, July 2, 2007

Blunt and Pratt (55th) Interferes with Non-Partisan Court Plan

Missouri is known throughout the Country as having a wonderful, non-partisan plan to pick judges. The Missouri Plan is simple - three lawyers are elected by their peers (1 from KC, 1 from Cardinal Country and 1 from out-state). Three non-lawyers are selected the governor (same division from around the state). The chief judge of the MO Supreme Court also sits on the commission. Those 7 folks on the commission pick three folks who are extremely qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, Gov. Matt Blunt then picks one of them.

Gov. Blunt apparently does not want neutral judges, he wants partisan folks. It's not just me who thinks so, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so, too. "Blunt Pushes Panel on Judge Pick." Gov. Blunt, according to the Post, is commanding the commission to give him "a slate of nominees who would dutifully interpret Missouri law without regard to their own policy preferences." Ed Martin, the governor's chief of staff, cleared up what that means. "Hopefully, we get a panel that includes people the governor can feel comfortable with and who share viewpoints he espouses." Which viewpoints of stem cell? Abortion? Death penalty? 7th Amendment Right to Trial by Jury? 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms? Clearly, Blunt wants a Supreme Court judge who plays favorites, not one devoted to following the rule of law. Is that what we teach our kids about a neutral, independent judiciary? Is that who you want deciding a case? I don't want someone who has been pre-screened as being right on Blunt's issues, which means the judge has made up his or her mind.

The last time a Republican governor appointed a Supreme Court judge, Matt Blunt couldn't even buy a drink. Ashcroft (now a moderate thanks to Rove/Bush/Gonzalez) did a very good job appointing judges to the Supreme Court. Ashcroft appointed ALL 7 judges to the Supreme Court during his term as governor. Ashcroft's appointments were very smart lawyers. I didn't always agree with the decisions, but they were at least based on case law and reason. If the Missouri Plan worked for Ashcroft, why is it broken for Matt Blunt?

Jackson County's own Rep. Bryan Pratt, a Republican who represents Shook Hardy & Bacon and Blue Springs, is also critical of the process of selecting judges in Missouri. For an interesting read about how Pratt represents Shook's clients in Jefferson City, check out "The Devil's Advocates" Rep. Pratt carries a big stick in judicial worlds, he's the chair of the Judiciary Committee for the Missouri House. Pratt says in the Post article "If the governor gets three very liberal Democrats, I think it's going to expose that the process just isn't working."

Here's a question or two - The Missouri Plan worked for Shook Hardy & Bacon to get several of their partners appointed to the Supreme Court. Judge Elwood Thomas - a Shook partner - was an intellectual giant. Lawyers still use the books he wrote. Right now, Judge Laura Denvir Stitt is on the Supreme Court. Again, a Shook partner and very, very smart. She served with distinction, not partisanship, on the Court of Appeals and was elevated to the Supreme Court by Gov. Bob Holden. Judge Stitt told the Post that the Missouri Plan takes politics out of the nomination process. Why is it that Rep. Pratt thinks that a system that could put his former partner on the bench is broken? Is Rep. Pratt committed to good government and an independant judiciary or just putting partisan hacks (like his partners?!?!) on the Supreme Court?


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Anonymous said...

Judge Stith, not Stitt.

Rep. Mike Talboy said...

This is typical of the game being played in Jefferson City by the Republicans. Last session we saw legislation proposed which was intended to strip the courts of as much decision making possible. Rep. Jane Cunningham tried to basically reverse the idea of judicial review away from the courts (which, if you have seen some of laws that the Republican General Assembly has passed, is really scary) and Rep. Ed Emery has tried to do much of the same, plus put the power of impeachment of judges into the hands of his buddies like Sen. Bartle. There are others who would like to see Judges term-limited at 8 years or have juries eliminated. Several of us from Kansas City attempted to call attention to what was really behind these efforts. Yes, believe it or not, the excuse of simply “returning power to the hands of the people” is a sham, a shocker I know. There were some victorious moments of sanity. Rep. John Burnett and I were able to help stop a couple pieces from getting to the floor with “NO” votes in the Rules Committee. However, there is still going to be an onslaught of the same types of legislation coming in 2008.

For all of you out there who value your freedom and don’t use it simply as a sound-bite, we need your help to stop this awful movement of going after Judges and the Judiciary. This is not an effort to return power to the hands of the people. This is an effort to deny you, me and everyone else the ability to seek justice. One of the hallmark ideas of the United States is the idea that anyone, big or little, can fight an injustice all the way to the Supreme Court. And even better, they can win. Coming on the heels of July 4th, I wonder what our Founding Fathers would say if they knew their vision for this country they fought and died for was being twisted to rip the scales of justice from their base. This effort want to steal the one clear check and balance our citizens have and place it squarely in the palm of the ruling party. In essence they want exactly what our Fathers of this great country fought against......The Tyranny of the Majority.

Rep. Mike Talboy
37th District

Stephen Bough said...

Rep. Talboy: Thanks for sticking up for the Constitution. Not to get on a high horse, but there are three branches of government. I doubt that Rep. Emery has given much thought to why the founding fathers decided that 3 branches of government were needed, as opposed to all the other possible options. Why not just let the voters decide every issue? Why not have all the power vested in a single person (lots of folks liked the Washington fellow)? Why not have judges decide all disputes rather than mess with those crazy jurors? Why have two bodies within the legislative branch?

All of this was thought out, with a studied review of history. When the founding fathers came up with that crazy Constitution (holding off on the Amendments), they had put some deep thought in how to run this Country. The judicial branch is a check on the other two branches. The Constitution is a check on the laws passed by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch.

As we celebrate the 4th of July, maybe we should pass a Constitutional Amendment in Missouri requiring our elected representatives to pass a basic, college level civics course. Can’t pass it, you are gone. OK, not really, it sounds like a poll tax. I would like to think, however, that what they teach my kids in school about legislators – how they make thoughtful, intelligent decisions designed to better our country and state – were true.

America is a great country – maybe the greatest ever known to man. Our 3 branches of government have allowed business and individuals to succeed. Why does Representatives Cunningham and Emery think that after 200 years that the system is broke?

Happy 4th of July.

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